Something happened at Calvary this morning, that hasn’t happened in my 17+ years here. NBC Network News showed up at Midtown. Some of what was said might show up, in the nightly news, some might show up in the Today show…and of course, maybe none of it will show up anywhere. But I thought it was worth the possibility that someone might here a bit more positive message coming from our community.
Here is how I ended the message today…
It’s been a week of bad news in Happy Valley, and it might get worse, but there is still Good News for the Valley. As I was watching the football game yesterday. Yes even though I felt more responsibility for the message than many I have in the last few years, I still felt the need to watch the game. As I was watching, and thinking about the events of the week, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a number of “visions from God” — prophetic words, visions, messages, impressions, whatever you feel comfortable calling them — that people have given me over the course of the last decade. At least a half dozen times, someone has come to me and said that God had given them a vision of Beaver stadium filled with people in prayer, calling out to God, worshiping God.
If you happened to be watching the beginning of the football game yesterday, I wonder if God was just giving us a glimpse…of what He has in store. Most definitely it was a glimpse of His heart.
When Jesus started his gospel-driven ministry, he quoted from these words, first delivered by the prophet Isaiah. I’m closing with them, because I think they encompass the good news for our valley… Isaiah 61:1-4
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. Isaiah 61:1-4 (NIV)
Who is the “they” who will be oaks of righteousness? Who is they “they” who will be a display of God’s splendor? It is the brokenhearted, those in darkness and prison, those who are mourning and in despair. God’s grace will redeem and restore you.
If you are someone who has experienced the pain of sexual abuse… This is a picture of the grace of God for you. The dark under-belly of our culture is the frequency and shame of sexual abuse. No one is immune. It has the power to wound hearts in such deep, deep ways. But it is this same scandalous grace that has the power to heal those wounds & make whole those hearts.
I understand the emotion of the responses pouring forth in the valley. The sin is disturbing. The plight of the powerless must be our passion. But the bottom line is that the response of those whose lives have been been redeemed by ridiculous grace, must be different. I’m praying that here in our valley God meets the scandal of sin with scandalous grace and starts a redemptive tidal wave of cross-sized proportions.
May it start with us…